Philosophy of Shingen

(excerpts from "Flashing Steel" by Masayuki Shimabukuro and Leonard J Pellman.)

Bushi no Me Eyes of a Samurai

'...the samurai recognizes five distinct levels of eyesight and he tries to "see" at the highest of these levels in a way which combines physical sight with deep insight.'

- The highest level of vision is Shingen, or Compassionate Eye -

'...The next level of vision, shingen, adds the most vital ingredient of all: compassion. Compassion is the spark that motivates the samurai to take the correct action in a situation. He sees the event not merely from his own perspective and how it may affect him, but how the event will shape the lives of everyone involved. Furthermore, he sees it with understanding and compassion for all those affected, so that his action will be not what is best for him, but what will be best for society as a whole.

'The samurai does not view the feelings, actions or desires of others as "right" or "wrong". Therefore, his judgement is not clouded by a need to prove himself right. Nor does the samurai have to overcome the natural hesitancy of another person to admit that he or she is wrong. Instead, the samurai is only concerned with what has greater value. Thus, in a disagreement, the samurai sees the views of others only as alternatives, and he is able to use shingen to see which of these alternatives has the most value to society, whether it is his own preference or not. With this approach, it is far easier to persuade others to accept the best choice, as well.

...'Thus, ... a samurai is trained to "see from the heart".

...'As his training and experience continue, his sight evolves through stages fromnikugen to shingen.


------------------------------>Deeper Insight----------------------------------->

------------------------------>Greater Compassion----------------------------->

------------------------------>More Natural-------------------------------------->

'The easiest way to compare the differences - and the effects of those differences - between nikugen, tengen, egen and shingen (hogen), may be an example from everyday life:

'You are running late for a very important business meeting, and when you get on the freeway the traffic is heavily congested and moving at a crawl.

'With nikugen, all you can see is that you are going to be terribly late for the meeting and make a bad impression. As a result, you will probably speed frantically through the traffic, zigging and zagging from lane to lane, trying to gain a few precious minutes.

'A person with tengen, however, can see that his wild driving might earn him a traffic ticket. He might slow down a little, but more likely he will just be more careful to watch in the mirror for police cars, since he still wants to save as much time as possible getting to the meeting.

'The person with egen, on the other hand, does not allow his desire to make a good impression to cloud his judgement. He realises that driving recklessly could not only earn him a traffic ticket, but also endangers him and other people on the road - people who have as much right to the safe use of the highway as he does. Furthermore, he may even realise that his business associates may also be held up by the same traffic jam.

'The samurai is already at the meeting, waiting for the others to arrive. With the benefit of hogen (shingen), he understood that the freeways would be packed, so he got up earlier than usual to be sure traffic would not be a problem. In this way, if traffic was terrible he would be on time; if traffic was not congested, he would arrive early. He also understood that by being early, his associates would feel obligated to "make it up" to him, so he would gain a psychological advantage at the meeting, as well!'

'A true-life historical example of shingen comes from the exploits of one of Japan's greatest military leaders, Takeda Shingen, whose life exemplifies many of the training goals of iaijutsu.

'In Takeda's time, there was a brilliant tactician and warrior named Yamamoto Kansuke. Yamamoto's prowess, however, was not apparent to the naked eye (nikugen), but his ugliness most certainly was. His battlefield experience left him with only one eye, a maimed leg, and a disfigured finger, in addition to his generally unattractive appearance. One of Takeda's rivals, Imagawa Yoshitomo, took one look at Yamamoto, and turned him down flatly for a command position.

'Takeda, possessed of shingen, quickly saw past the scarred and unpleasant surface appearance of Yamamoto to his strength of character and tactical knowledge. Takeda at once selected Yamamoto as one of his twenty fourtaisho (generals). Not only did Yamamoto produce numerous victories for Takeda, but as a man who overcame severe physical handicaps, especially for his day, he was a tremendous inspiration to Takeda's other commanders."


This philosophy of Shingen - Compassionate Eye/View - is the underlying philosophy of the Shingen Academy of Martial Arts. We train to learn greater insight, and understanding of our world and the people around us. To see truly, with compassion, and without the distractions of personal need and ambition, for the greater good of all.